In addition, The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the major professional counselling body in Great Britain, provides a primary source of information and guidance related to counsellor training. The MA in Counselling Studies fully adheres to the BACP's Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and the content and standards of the programme have been guided by relevant information produced by BACP. It is also pertinent to note that successive external examiners have commented on the suitability of the Programme for advanced professional training and on the high standards that have been achieved.
There is no accrediting body for non-practitioner MA's in Counselling Studies.
Social and Political Science Postgraduate Programme Assessment Board
Friday 1st January 2010
The MA in Counselling Studies provides advanced professional training for qualified counsellors. It aims to enable individuals to deepen their theoretical understanding, increase their counselling competencies, develop research skills and critically reflect upon their practice in the light of contemporary counselling developments. Specific aims of the programme include the following:
To build upon and extend previous knowledge and understanding of counselling theory and its applications;
To enhance and broaden practitioner skills;
To develop an understanding of research methods and how they can be applied to the practice of counselling;
To increase awareness of professional and ethical issues relevant to counselling in contemporary society;
To promote increased self awareness and insight;
To promote ongoing critical reflection of counselling practice.
On successful completion of the programme students should be able to:
Demonstrate extended and in-depth knowledge and understanding of theoretical concepts which underpin the practice of counselling;
Demonstrate a personal integration of counselling theory and apply this synthesis to counselling practice;
Apply appropriately a range of enhanced practitioner skills;
Examine critically ethical and professional issues relevant to counselling in contemporary society;
Reflect critically on their counselling practice and on the integration of their professional and personal development;
Produce a dissertation which demonstrates the application of research skills to an area of interest within the field of counselling.
Knowledge and Understanding
A key generic aim of the programme is to build upon and extend knowledge and understanding of counselling theory and its applications as well as develop understanding of research philosophy and methods. Examples of outcomes in this area include developing knowledge and understanding of:
A range of theoretical perspectives related to personal and interpersonal development - SO7501, SO7502, SO7505, SO7506, SO7507,
Philosophical and theoretical assumptions which underpin the major counselling approaches - SO7501, S07509, S07510, S07512, S07514, SO7109
The historical, social, cultural and political context of counselling theory and practice - SO7503, SO7509, S07514
Current and emerging debates related to counselling theory and practice - SO7501, SO7503, SO7505, SO7506, SO7507, SO7508, SO7509, SO7510, SO7512,SO7513, SO7514, SO7109
Group dynamics concepts and issues -SO7502, S07515
A range of qualitative and quantitative research methods and how they can be applied to the practice of counselling - SO7504, S07517, S07501, SO7109
Thinking or Cognitive Skills
Students will be expected to analyse, synthesize and evaluate complex concepts and ideas, including contributions from relevant research and advanced scholarship in the area of study. They will need to formulate cogent arguments supported by sound evidence, with the aim of developing insightful and original interpretations. For example they should be able to:
Synthesize data from a wide range of sources - All core and elective modules
Construct a personal integration of counselling theory - SO7501
Reflect critically on their professional practice and on the integration of personal and professional development - allcore and elective modules
Analyse critically key issues in research design - SO7504, SO7517
Plan, conduct and write up a piece of original research - SO7517
Professional and Practical Skills
The programme aims to enhance and broaden a range of professional skills For example, by the end of the programme students should be able to:
Adopt a systematic and rigorous approach to academic study - All core and elective modules
Apply group facilitation skills to a range of group activities - SO7502, SO7515
Demonstrate skills in facilitating a training activity - SO7515
Demonstrate competence in establishing and maintaining a counselling supervision relationship - SO7516
Apply qualitative or quantitative research methods to the study of an area relevant to counselling - SO7504, SO7517
Application of number
Information literacy and technology
Improving own learning and performance
Working with others
By the end of the programme key skills in all the six areas will be enhanced. Examples of outcomes to be achieved throughout the programme include:
Communicate complex ideas effectively in writing and orally - All core and elective modules
Apply numerical/statistical skills where appropriate - SO7504, SO7517
Use information technology competently - All core and elective modules
Work autonomously and assume responsibility for their own learning - All core and elective modules
Utilize effectively the learning resources within the group - All core and elective modules
Work collaboratively as a group member, engaging sensitively with the beliefs and convictions of others - All core and elective modules
Apply creative and original problem solving skills to a range of areas - SO7504, SO7517
Transferable Professional Skills
Students will have achieved a wide range of transferable professional skills. In particular the programme should enable students toreflect critically upon their professional practice and to apply relevant theory to a range of counselling contexts.
The MA in Counselling Studies provides advanced professional training for Counsellors with a Diploma in Counselling (or equivalent qualification) and relevant professional experience. The programme is modular in structure and students are required to complete nine modules (180 credits) at Level 7 for the award of the MA. Six are taught modules (120 credits), consisting of four core modules and two electives. The electives are grouped in three areas and students choose two modules from these groupings. The choice of electives offered in any given year is negotiated within the group, and these modules are open to external qualified counsellors as part of the Programme of Short Courses for Qualified Counsellors. The taught modules are grouped as follows:
CORE MODULES - Compulsory
The Counsellor as Theorist
The Counsellor in Today's World
Counselling Research Methods
ELECTIVE MODULES - Students choose two modules from the following three areas:
Loss and Grief
Responding to Psychological Trauma: Counselling and Therapeutic Perspectives
Working with Abuse
Counselling Young People,
Counselling in Health Care Settings
Expressive Arts Therapies
Person-Centred Counselling: Contemporary Developments and Debates
Introduction to Counselling Supervision
The additional three modules (60 credits) are obtained through the completion of an approved research project and submitting a dissertation of 12,000 – 16.000 words. Advanced standing of up to a maximum of 66% of the award may be possible. As the programme is delivered at Level 7 there will not be the progression that is evident in an undergraduate course that develops from level 4 to level 6. Nevertheless the understanding, knowledge and skills acquired in the earlier part of the programme are built on as the individual progresses through the modules, and in some cases prerequisites are required. The area where progression is most evident is at the stage of dissertation research. Students normally need to have successfully completed all the core and elective modules before embarking on their research, and the dissertation provides the opportunity to demonstrate the consolidation of learning acquired throughout the programme.
In all aspects of the MA students are expected to analyze, synthesize and evaluate complex concepts and ideas, including contributions from relevant research and advanced scholarship in this area of study. They will need to formulate cogent arguments supported by sound evidence, with the aim of developing insightful and original interpretations. There will be an emphasis on examining critically their own assumptions and reflecting critically on their own practice in the light of contemporary counselling developments and relevant research. The foundation for this critical reflection is established in the first core module - The Counsellor as Theorist. This begins with a critical reflection on their personal journey to become a counsellor and how they use their \'self\' in therapeutic contexts and in the formulation of their own personal theoretical model. The theme of the counsellor\'s use of self is carried through in subsequent core modules, including Group Work, the Counsellor in Today\'s World, and the Research Methods Module. The elective modules provide an opportunity for students to build upon the learning, development and insights achieved in the core modules and enable individuals to either deepen their knowledge and understanding in a particular area, or in some instances, to be introduced to a new area of study. The focus, in all aspects of the programme, is on students arriving at their own synthesis of learnings, developing original insights and reflecting upon implications for their professional practice.
The programme can be undertaken at various paces. Taught modules can be completed on a part-time basis (one day per week) over a period of two years, or full time (two days per week) over a period of one year. Completing the course full time entails spanning the Year I and Year II groups.
60 Level 7 Credits -Postgraduate Certificate in Counselling Studies. 120 Level7 Credits - Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling Studies -At least three of the modules must be core modules, with the remaining modules being chosen from electives. 180 Level 7Credits - MA in Counselling Studies - Four compulsory core modules and two electives. The additional three modulesare obtained by completing an approved research project.
Entry requirements for the M.A. in Counselling Studies are as follows:
Diploma in Counselling or equivalent qualification;
A minimum of 120 hours of supervised counselling practice;
Evidence of being able to meet the academic requirements, e.g. an undergraduate degree or a professional qualification at Level 6. Applicants without standard academic evidence need to submit an academic piece of work for assessment.
Individuals meeting the above requirements must:
Provide two references, including one from their counselling supervisor;
Currently be in counselling practice;
Confirm that they abide by the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (or another relevant Professional Code of Ethics)
All applicants are interviewed by the Programme Leader or by a member of the Programme Team.
There are currently no specific benchmark statements for Advanced Professional Development M.A. in Counselling Studies courses. The programme however is consistent with the new (2013) QAA Subject Benchmark for Practitioner Training Undergraduate and Master's Level Counselling and Psychotherapy Courses (apart from the counselling placement and assessment in clinical practice). The programme also adheres to the following generic descriptor for Master's level qualifications provided by the QAA (from QAA Framework for HEQ's, 2008)
Master's degrees are awarded to students who have demonstrated:
i) a systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice;
ii) a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship;
iii) originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
iv) conceptual understanding that enables the student:
to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline;
to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and where appropriate to propose new hypotheses.
Typically holders of the qualification will be able to:
a) deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgments in the absence of complete data and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
b) demonstrate self-direction and originality in tacking and solvng problems and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level;
c) continue to advance their knowledge and understanding and to develop new skills to a high level;
And holders will have:
d) the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:
the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility;
decision making in complex and unpredictable situations;
the independent learning required for continuing professional development.
The philosophy and approach of the course is student-centred and aims to enable participants to establish individual learning objectives which they can pursue during their course of study. Alongside a focus on autonomous learning, collaboration with course colleagues is highly valued. The course team recognize that students bring a vast amount of experience and expertise to the programme and actively encourage the sharing of knowledge and understanding. Consistent with an advanced level programme, students are encouraged to assume maximum responsibility for their own learning and to utilise actively the many resources present within the group.
The establishment of a supportive and challenging learning environment is seen as paramount for enabling students to meet their learning needs, and the course therefore seeks to create a climate characterized by trust, risk taking and sharing. The course is highly participative in nature, and debates within the counselling field are rigorously addressed. Every effort is made, through both class based activities and assignments, to provide opportunities for students to reflect critically upon their professional work and to develop their own personal synthesis of theory and practice.
An integrated approach is adopted throughout the programme, with the aim of fostering academic, professional and personal development. A variety of learning and teaching strategies are employed to meet the course objectives. There is some didactic teaching, but the emphasis is upon small group work, discussion and debate, seminar presentations, case study discussions, skills development and experiential activities. Self-directed and peer supported learning are encouraged throughout the course, and specific time is built into the programme for student-directed learning groups. Consistent with the philosophy of the programme self and peer assessment are used in the formative assessment process to complement tutor assessment.
Students also undertake individual research, and this provides further opportunities to enhance academic and professional development, to meet individual learning needs and to enable students to contribute to the ongoing development of knowledge within the field of counselling.
Modules are assessed entirely by coursework, and the standard means of assessment is a 5,000 word assignment or equivalent. Consistent with Level 7 standarads students can choose a negotiated topic which meets the subject specific and level related criteria, or they can do a set assignment. A variety of methods are used to assess knowledge, understanding and professional practice. Examples include essays, case studies, seminar presentations, research proposals, audio/video tapes and critical assessment of professional practice (Training and Supervision). A 16,000 word dissertation is the assessment method for the triple research module.
All assignments focus on demonstrating knowledge and understanding informed by theory and research, as well as contextualizing the topic in relation to the student's own professional practice and wider developments within the counselling field. The focus is on students arriving at their own personal synthesis of learnings, developing original insights and critically reflecting on implications for professional counselling practice. Intellectual and cognitive skills are assessed in all assignments and the dissertation, and many of the transferable skills embedded within the programme are also incorporated in the assessment criteria. All learning outcomes which are assessed are specifically stated in the relevant module handbook.
Formative assessment is embedded throughout the programme and is achieved through self, peer and tutor assessment of experiential learning activities, professional practice based activities and presentations.
The MA in Counselling Studies has been shown to directly enhance academic, professional and personal development, often having a direct impact on career prospects. While there is no typical MA graduate, as students enter the course with diverse backgrounds, the examples below give some indication of how the programme has influenced career and academic progression.
Left school at 15 with School Certificate
Retail store manager
B A (Honours)
Diploma in Counselling
Counsellor in private practice
MA in Counselling Studies –University of Chester
Paper on research dissertation presented at national counselling research conference
Currently Senior Lecturer in Counselling, Counselling Supervisor and Private Practice Counsellor
Degree in Social Work
Diploma in Counselling
Counsellor in Social Services
MA in Counselling Studies –University of Chester
Article on dissertation research printed in major counselling research journal
Currently Student Counsellor in a University Counselling Service and recently completed a Ph.D in Counselling
Currently author or editor or a number of highly regarded Counselling texts
The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.
The MA in Counselling Studies aims to enhance continuing professional development by providing a forum for students to critically reflect upon their practice in the light of contemporary theory, research and debates within the counselling profession. It offers an innovative and distinctive structure, combining core and elective modules with dissertation research. This provides a broad, yet in-depth integrated programme, enabling counselling practitioners to enhance academic, professional and personal development. Successive cohorts of students have attested to the value of the programme for broadening their career horizons and enhancing their academic opportunities. Some excellent dissertations of publishable quality have been produced, and Chester MA graduates can currently be found in a wide range of challenging and influential counselling positions. A number have also progressed to doctoral level studies.
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